Imposing freehold leases would be socially divisive: PM Lee

HDB leases last 99 years in order to be fair to future generations, Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

“If the government had sold land, (whether HDB or private housing) on freehold, i.e. in perpetuity, sooner or later we would run out of land to build new flats for future generations,” he said in his National Day Rally speech.

This could cause owners to pass their flats down to some of their descendants, but the prime minister argued that not everyone will get a home as there are those “not lucky enough” to inherit property will get nothing.

“Our society would split into property owners and those with none. That would be most unequal, and socially divisive,” he said.

Very few of today’s HDB owners will outlive their leases, Lee noted. Singapore’s oldest flats are at most 52 years old, so there are at least 47 years left for them.

“HDB estimates that it will happen to less than 2% of households, including those who bought resale flats,” he added. “This shouldn’t be a problem if your children buy their own BTO flat with its own 99-year lease as many do.”

Lee also argued that Singapore cannot extend HDB leases as Singapore’s tropical climate would have ruined the concrete whilst mechanical and electrical systems of these homes would soon be obsolete.

“It is better to let the leases expire, take the blocks back, demolish them and rebuild afresh…we can rebuild newer, better, more liveable flats, blocks, and townships, more suited to what our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will want to live in,” the prime minister said. 

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